Defending champions Spain and World Cup runners-up Sweden duel for Europe's handball crown.

The champion of 2018 and 2020 beat world champion Denmark 29:25 (13:14) in the semi-finals of the European Championship in Budapest on Friday and can continue to dream of the title hat-trick.

Record European champion Sweden defeated Olympic champion France 34:33 (17:14) and can climb the European handball throne for the fifth time.

In the duel between the world and European champions, the Danes got off to a better start and were sometimes up four goals in the first half - also because goalkeeper Niklas Landin initially presented himself in splendid shape.

But as the playing time increased, his opponent Gonzalo Perez de Vargas was in top form and saved a total of 38 percent of the throws.

"He turned the game around for Spain," said Denmark coach Nikolaj Jacobsen.

“We had an outstanding goalkeeper”

The Spaniards reduced the gap to one goal before the break.

Ten minutes after the change, the defending champion took the lead for the first time at 17:16 and didn't give it up until the end.

"The team did an excellent job in the second half," praised Spain coach Jordi Ribera.

"We defended well and had an outstanding goalkeeper." The winner's best shot was right winger Aleix Gomez with eleven goals, while superstar Mikkel Hansen scored eight times for Denmark.

In the second semi-final, too, a goalkeeper slipped into the leading role.

Sweden's Andreas Palicka, who played for the Rhein-Neckar Löwen in the Bundesliga for many years, was the outstanding man on the floor when he returned to the tournament after surviving the corona infection.

The 35-year-old not only made numerous brilliant saves, but also scored three goals.

Secured a ticket to the World Cup in the handball thriller

In the second round, the veteran ran out of breath for a moment, but he was wide awake again in the hot final phase.

Jim Gottfridsson was unstoppable in attack.

With nine goals, the director led the Scandinavians to victory from German runners-up SG Flensburg-Handewitt.

Hugo Descat was successful for France eight times.

Norway had previously secured fifth place in a handball crime thriller against Iceland and thus secured a direct ticket for the 2023 World Cup in Sweden and Poland.

Thanks to a goal in the last second by Harald Reinkind from the German record champions THW Kiel, the 2020 European Championship bronze medalist won 34:33 (27:27, 16:12) after extra time.

The best thrower for the winner was Kiel's top star Sander Sagosen with eight goals, while Omar Ingi Magnusson from Bundesliga leaders SC Magdeburg scored ten times for the Icelanders.

Like Denmark, France, Spain and the two organizers, the Norwegians are sure to be at the World Championships next year.

The other European starting places will be awarded in playoff games.

The pairings will be drawn in Budapest on Saturday.